Melbourne Victory are making up for lost time, dispatching Wellington Phoenix 2-0 to resume their hunt for Liberty A-League finals double chance.
Alex Chidiac inspired the defending champions after a 19-day COVID-enforced break, providing spark and smarts to surge Victory back inside the league’s top four.
The 23-year-old set up Alana Murphy and Tiffany Eliadis to score first-half goals on Friday night at WIN Stadium – two first-time A-Leagues scorers of a very different vintage.
Murphy, just 16 and in her first A-League Women campaign, scored a 13th -minute goal when her first-time cross flew goal-wards on the Wollongong wind, embarrassing Lily Atfield, who could only flap at the ball as it crossed the line.
Ten minutes later, Eliadis steered a volley past the Phoenix captain from Chidiac’s fine centre, marking her first goal in the league a decade after her top-flight debut.
Chidiac was a driving force, at times dribbling past the Nix midfield at will, and Victory will hope to squeeze their catch-up games in the next fortnight before her loan deal ends.
However, Victory didn’t have it all their own way, with Wellington’s Chloe Knott and Alyssa Whinham forcing Jeff Hopkins’ side into several awkward moments.
Whinham probed but couldn’t quite find movement from the Phoenix forwards, while Knott tested Victory with set pieces.
Often, it was left to Victory’s New Zealand international – centre-back Claudia Bunge – to keep her countrywomen out.
The stats sheet also favoured Wellington, who shaded possession and took more shots than Victory.
Teenager Ava Pritchard had the Nix’s best chance to score after racing clear in an 85th-minute breakaway, only to fire straight at Casey Dumont.
Victory captain Lia Privitelli ran half the length of the field in injury time, firing into the post to miss out on a goal-of-the-season contender.
The result leaves the competition’s newest club still winless – and pointless since an opening weekend 0-0 draw with Western Sydney Wanderers – and running out of time to record a first season success.
They might fancy their chances against the league’s other winless outfit, Canberra United when they meet next weekend.
Victory have different aims, and will hope to dislodge rivals Melbourne City in the race for a top-two finish.